Deaths 'tragic accident'

Last updated 08:33 13/12/2012
Kejia Zheng
CHE BAKER/Fairfax NZ
INEXPERIENCED DRIVER: Chinese exchange student Kejia Zheng leaves the Alexandra District Court yesterday after admitting two charges of careless driving causing death and two charges of careless driving causing injury.

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The family of a Timaru Road Knights member killed in a head-on crash on the Lindis Pass last month have called the incident a "tragic accident" and embraced the woman responsible in court yesterday.

Grant John Roberts, 43, of Timaru, and Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, were killed when Chinese exchange student Kejia Zheng, 20, crashed into their motorcycles in a rental car she was driving on November 26. Both men were known gang members.

Another motorcyclist and a pillion passenger were seriously injured in the crash.

Zheng admitted two charges of careless driving causing death and two charges of careless driving causing injury before Judge Stephen O'Driscoll in the Alexandra District Court yesterday.

She had hit gravel on the side of the road and over-corrected causing the crash. Speed and alcohol were not factors.

Mr Robert's mother, Valmai Crawford, his four sisters and the the two oldest of his four children travelled from Geraldine to attend the court hearing and earlier in the day met with Zheng.

Mrs Crawford read the statement to the court that she read at her son's funeral, which said Mr Robert's death had left a void that would never be filled.

In her statement to the court, Mrs Crawford read: "It's just a tragic accident. It could have happened to anyone. Rest in peace and ride on forever." She also said the family, and one of the victims who remains in hospital, did not want Zheng to receive a jail sentence for causing the crash. Lawyer Tim Cadogan said Zheng, an exchange student who had been living in Australia, had been in New Zealand for only a day when the crash happened.

Her lack of driving experience was a "major factor" in the crash on "a road even people from Central Otago respect".

She had been living in fear since the accident and had little support, he said.

Judge O'Driscoll remanded Zheng until today for sentencing to allow for a victim impact statement from one of the victims to be received and confirmation of insurance from the rental company.

After the hearing Mrs Crawford hugged Zheng. '‘We can't begin to understand how she [Zheng] is feeling," Mrs Crawford said.

She was in a foreign country with no friends and no family for support.

"To be angry is only going to hurt yourself," she said.

Mr Roberts would be remembered as a man who always put his family first, who "idolised" his children and grandchildren and was always on the side-line of his children's rugby games.

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